Minings Legacy

A Scar on Kansas

9 October 2009, 4:24 p.m.

— Recent medical tests have shown that residents of a southeast Kansas town have more lead in their bloodstream than the average Kansas resident, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lead testing conducted Sept. 8 and 9 found that the median lead level for Treece residents is 4.0 micrograms per deciliter of blood, compared with a norm of 2.5 micrograms for all Kansas residents, according to the report released by the EPA on Thursday.

“It’s an alarm any time we have children with (elevated) lead levels,” said David Bryan, an EPA spokesman in Kansas City, Kan.

Residents of Treece have been exposed to environmental lead left behind by a century of mining operations. The town is surrounded by hundreds of acres of piles of “chat,” which is gray lead- and zinc-contaminated waste left over from the mineral extraction process.

In addition, the area is dotted with abandoned shafts and cave-ins that flooded when the miners left and pumps that kept the mines relatively dry were turned off in the early 1970s.

One of the 16 children tested last month showed a blood-lead level higher than 10 micrograms per deciliter, the point at which state health officials define lead poisoning. Two others showed levels between 5 and 10 micrograms.

EPA officials estimate that the children tested represent about half the population of Treece up to age 6.

Treece residents and local officials have been campaigning to try to get the EPA to buy out the town and move out the people, as it did with the neighboring community of Picher, Okla.

The lead testing was offered to everyone in town after three top EPA officials visited Treece in August to assess the environmental hazards and listen to residents’ concerns.

Government estimates say it would cost $3 million to $3.5 million to buy up the remaining homes in Treece and relocate the population.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill last month recognizing the health risks posed by living in Treece and authorizing the EPA to buy out the community.

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Mining’s Legacy

Video interview

Geologist Jim McCauley

Photo slideshow

"A bad way to make a living"

Video interview

Former miner Walter Wettstein

Photo gallery

A landscape transformed

Video interview

Dave Drake, EPA project manager

Photo gallery

A tale of two cities

Video interview

Picher resident Jon Finn


River City Weekly

Video interview

Treece Mayor Bill Blunk

Video interview

Senator Pat Roberts

Video interview

Representative Doug Gatewood


puddleglum 8 years, 7 months ago

at least somebody made a bunch of money off of these people!

LiberalDude 8 years, 7 months ago

This is what happens when you vote for Republicans and small government with limited regulations. It gives the companies a free pass to do whatever they want to make money... who cares about the people that might suffer. The mining companies should have to compensate thse people.

SeaFox 8 years, 7 months ago

I wonder what "lead" those three children to have such high levels compared to other children in the testing group?

John McCoy 8 years, 7 months ago

Why does the government have to buy these people out? It seems logical that Eagle-Picher Mining would be responsible. They made the mess.

Steve Miller 8 years, 7 months ago

the minig company probably outlived their abatment and then evaporated into thin air....

LiberalDude 8 years, 7 months ago

I posted the truth and you continue to Bore-us.

camper 8 years, 7 months ago

Interesting. I was just reading that this area of the country has a history of illness resulting from lead and zinc mining. In fact Mickey Mantle grew up in NE Oklahoma, and he often had a fatalistic view of life because he saw so many die of cancer at such a young age (including his father). He once said, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself". No matter how rough a life Mantle lived, it was probably extended by leaving this region.

blakus 8 years, 7 months ago

This is a small part of a larger problem this country has letting corporations get away with malfeasance. We prosecute individuals for simple assault and send them to jail, but a collective group of people bent on making money that poisons individuals/communities is untouchable. Mmmm, love this Corporate 'Democracy'.

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